Central Maine Power utility lines are seen, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Pownal. The company is fighting stiff opposition from environmentalists who oppose its proposed 145-mile transmission line to bring Canadian hydroelectric power into New England. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 14 days until the Nov. 2 election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We have everything in this town that anybody could possibly want,” said Free Martin, one of seven candidates for city council in Bangor. “I think Bangor just has to do a great job of selling it.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The state will hold a two-part hearing today that could have major consequences for Central Maine Power’s embattled project. The state will be taking testimony today from the public and involved parties on whether it should suspend its approval of CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect in a two-part proceeding. It will be a public forum of sorts on the project two weeks from a vote on Question 1 — which aims to kill the project — and a way to gain clues about the post-Election Day path of the $1 billion transmission line.

The meeting comes after a Superior Court judge ruled in August that Maine had no authority to give corridor backers a lease for 33 acres of public land in Somerset County, requiring the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to issue a public determination of whether the lease “substantially alters” public lands, a standard that would trigger a legislative vote.

The proceedings will focus on five topics: the status of the public lands lawsuit; construction progress and plans on the project; the ability to route the corridor around the parcel in question; the effect on a project when part of it is suspended, and what would need to be done to protect the environment if the corridor permit was suspended.

Losing the lease would not necessarily doom the project, but absent a valid lease or an alternative route, there is no corridor. Even a rerouting would have high stakes for CMP and project backers would have to argue again for permits. They spent heavily in the $60 million political fight over Question 1 and more on the project itself. If passed, the referendum would retroactively block the construction of transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec region and require legislative approval of those kinds of projects and others.

But even if Question 1 succeeds, CMP could have an avenue to fight the question’s implementation in court on vested rights grounds — the concept that a project should be allowed to continue because a company invested money before circumstances changed. But the revocation of a permit voided by a court, especially if later upheld, is harder to fight.

Intervenors in the state proceedings will be speaking at 9 a.m. and the public will be allowed to speak at 5:30 p.m. Follow along here.

The Maine politics top 3

— “9 in 10 Maine paramedics are vaccinated, but mandate squeezes rural areas,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The departures are not evenly distributed around the state and the losses of even a few workers pose the latest challenge to already short-staffed rural departments. Workloads are likely to increase for those who remain and potentially longer wait times loom as agencies prepare to cover for one another more frequently.”

More than a third of departments that reported data to Maine EMS had 100 percent compliance with the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate. But more than a dozen others still saw vaccination rates of less than 70 percent with just a few weeks until the state begins enforcing the new requirement.

— “Maddox Williams’ mom pleads not guilty in her son’s killing,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “Maddox was one of four Maine children who died in unsafe homes over the summer. The others were a baby in Brewer who was shaken to death, an infant in Milo whose father has been charged with depraved indifference murder in connection with his son’s death and a 3-year-old in Old Town who died ingesting fentanyl in her home.”

— “Maine rolls out $20M more in grants to struggling small businesses,” Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd, BDN: “[Gov. Janet] Mills held a news conference in Lewiston on Monday to highlight $139 million in initial spending under the plan. That includes the business grant program alongside $80 million for the state’s unemployment fund and $39 million more for a program subsidizing health care costs for businesses and their workers who use small-group insurance plans.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...